Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Kill Your TV: To Catch a Rapist 

Wednesday, Sep 9 2015
Comments (1)

The first of my three friends to be raped was in her early 20s. She was in her house and went into a room where a young man was standing. Her boyfriend saved her life when he walked in on her being choked to death after the rape happened. My second friend to be raped was in college on the East Coast, at an Ivy League school, when she came back to her apartment and found a man there, waiting for her. The details about my third friend's rape are murky; I only know that when he was done, he tied her up, put her in her bathtub, and set her on fire.

I know of no other people who have suffered violent crimes. I have to conclude that rape is incredibly, horribly prevalent.

It's so prevalent, in fact, that thousands of cases remain unsolved because of a huge backlog of DNA evidence that has yet to be processed. The reasons for this are time and money, but mostly money: Cash-strapped police departments don't have the resources to analyze every single rape kit in cases where things weren't cut and dried — which, sadly, happens to be the majority of rape cases.

Enter reality television. Cold Justice: Sex Crimes accesses cold cases in various towns where the police department has run out of leads and can't afford to fully process the scientific clues. The TNT show is an offshoot of the murder-solving reality procedural Cold Justice, a binge-worthy show for those rainy afternoons of laundry and cooking when you want to get lost in man's inhumanity to man. Sex Crimes has featured some very sad stories about women who've been violated and have never been the same. As one police officer puts it: A murderer takes your life, a rapist takes your soul.

The catch-22 for the people who participate in these types of shows must be difficult. Bereaved family members, widows, and coworkers all agree to be on camera in the hopes that someone watching will help them solve the case. But once the show runs, pictures of the decedent lying in a pool of blood are shown, or grisly details are re-enacted in what is obviously sensationalist zeal. The inspectors are moved by the deaths and usually claim to be "haunted" by the crime scenes, which I suppose is supposed to balance out the spectacle. And I am drawn to the spectacle. I don't claim not to be.

I'm also drawn to Sex Crimes despite my distaste with the idea of parading someone's pain as entertainment. There's a cognitive dissonance; I get caught up in it. Everything on the show builds to a crescendo where you're sure they will find the asshole. If the show results in tracking down the perp, then the fact that you were glued to all the prurient drama is okay, right?

Sadly, in the five episodes of Sex Crimes that have run as of press time, three of them ended without finding the bad guy. So the victims are reliving their attacks all over again on a very public stage, without finding closure. The upside, they are told, is that their bravery will encourage other women to come forward, but is this true? If you are a woman who has been assaulted and are wary of dealing with the dehumanizing, byzantine bureaucracy of "justice," will seeing that it doesn't even work on a TV show help? I dunno. After reading Jon Krakauer's book about rape on a college campus, Missoula, I was even more baffled as to why or how any young woman can muster the energy, courage, and fortitude to speak her truth.

Big shocker: Reality TV is no substitute for actual knowledge. As didactic as Cold Justice tries to be about the importance of reporting and prosecuting rape, these shows are still basically visual pulp fiction that cloaks itself in social advocacy. Until sentencing matches the crime or the "boys will be boys" attitude toward college football players who rape people is dismantled, not much is going to change.

About The Author

Katy St. Clair

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

 

Comments are closed.

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Slideshows

  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"